On Creative Energy

Wild and Free, paper collage, 2022

Creativity is energy being put to work in a constructive fashion.

Frank X. Barron

I am not certain when I began thinking of creativity in terms of energy, or life force. Though, to be sure, I have long associated my own creativity with the inner experience of having too much life, or the sense that I’ve got a great, almost overpowering force inside of me that could tear me apart me if I don’t learn how to manage it properly. This is especially true when I find myself in circumstances that require a curtailing of self-expression, or that otherwise make me feel unable to use my creative and intellectual abilities to their full potential.

I thus learned a long time ago that, no matter what’s happening in my life, I always have to have a project through which I can put that energy to constructive use: acquiring a new skill, exploring a new artistic direction, or developing my knowledge of a field or topic of interest. I always have to have a project. Always. If life doesn’t provide me with the opportunities to develop myself as I need to, then I must create those opportunities for myself. It is essential to my well-being on every level.

And so when I came across the following video clip on Instagram yesterday of Jerry Garcia talking about the importance of having a project or pursuit to learn and grow and improve with, I felt moved to share it here and talk a little bit about why I think having that kind of outlet for creative energy is so invaluable. I’m using collage as an example.

Creative energy is a gateway to possibility.

Collage is my “one thing”. While I’ve been writing and dabbling with poetry (and psychology, too, for that matter) off-and-on for many years, collage is the only area in which I am entirely self-taught and the only creative activity in which I engage consistently. If you’ve been following this blog for a period of years, you may even remember when I first got the idea to give it a try. To be sure, my first collage probably wasn’t very good…but I knew immediately that I could be good at it if I worked hard. I caught a glimpse of something in myself when I made my first collage, and it was as if the world had begun opening up to me differently.  

Creative energy keeps us centered.

I collage everyday. On days in which I am not physically cutting and pasting, I am learning, generating ideas, connecting with other artists. Collage has become an anchor for me. It is a way of making meaning. And it is the most satisfying and totalizing form of self-expression I know. 

In addition, as Jerry says, there’s something extraordinary and immeasurably satisfying about learning something new and seeing improvements in ourselves as a “result only of [our] own energy”, dedication, and effort. In terms of energy, I always think these kinds of pursuits pay us back a thousand times what we put into them. It’s as if they simply generate more life. They also help us build confidence and resilience, which leads me to my next point…

Creative energy can be a source of courage.

Collage has taught me a lot about courage and what it really means to live and to create by my rules, according to my standards. What I mean by that: I was hesitant to share my collages at first, especially on social media. I was afraid to submit my work to galleries and exhibitions. I was even uncomfortable calling myself an artist because I was afraid I might not be good enough. 

But, I continued working. Everyday. And I forced myself to share my work on social media. And I forced myself to submit my work to galleries. And I forced myself to go out into the local community and create a presence as an artist there. The more courageous I was in the face of my fears, the less afraid I became. The little voice that made me doubt I was (or could be) a “real artist” got quieter and quieter and quieter. 

At some point within the past six months or so, it became clear to me that I was moving according to an internal compass. I was making the kind of art that satisfied me. I was having fun. I was playing. And there was no voice that told me my work wasn’t good enough. And there was no voice that told me I wasn’t a real artist. It was just me, in the moment, dedicating myself fully to something I love.

11 responses to “On Creative Energy”

    • I agree. I’m actually thinking about writing a post on play. It’s incredibly freeing, I think, to reach a place within ourselves where we can play freely, and sometimes it takes considerable effort to get there.

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  1. Thank you for sharing the clip from Instagram and your thoughts on the power and necessity of a form of creativity in our lives. When I write, I feel like I am in touch with myself in a way that is freeing. ❤

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  2. Your essays excite and energize me. I find myself saying, “Yes!” many times while reading your words. Thank you and thank for the clip. 🙏🏻 BTW, I dropped off your print to be framed yesterday. I will share when it is done. More excitement!

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    • Aww yay! I can’t wait to see it. 😊👏 I am happy this post resonated and that you found it energizing and meaningful. Having a creative project that allows us to see ourselves grow and develop–and even that we can use to overcome fears and dispel our inner critic–is so important. Your comment brought a big smile to my face. Thank you, Michele!

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  3. This is a fantastic entry, my friend! Again, a wonderful beginning to my day! I love your statements in regards to courage and the idea of calling yourself an artist. It took me a long time to believe I was “good enough” to call myself a writer or a dancer. I felt it was fraudulent having never been educated or trained professionally…and for a long time, that kept me from pursuing what I was so passionate about. But doing something daily and seeing the progress and allowing it to fill you in such a simple, joyful, peaceful and energetic way allows such richness into our lives. There is such beauty in doing “your thing” over and over and seeing not only the improvement but also the way it changes your very spirit and how you engage with the world. When we stifle what is calling us, I really believe our engagement with life all around is stifled. To be brave, to embrace failure as part of the process, to love yourself and the creativity we each uniquely bring to this world is such a grand part of living…affecting our relationships, our souls, and adding our own watermark of beauty in this breathtaking world. So good, my friend 🙂

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    • And reading your beautiful and insightful comment was a wonderful ending to my day. Thank you, my friend! There is something extremely powerful and liberating about watching ourselves grow according to our own standards—and in sticking with those projects even when it’s a challenge. You’re very right when you say it changes our spirit and the way we engage with the world. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you again for such wonderful feedback! 🙂

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